If you play Tabletop roleplay and you’re wondering about trying VR Roleplay, you’re in the right place. I play both fanatically, and I’m here to explain the key elements that separate VR Roleplay from Tabletop.
Comparing VR Roleplay to Tabletop is a literal matter of perspective. In Tabletop, a player may speak in character in the first person, but as a player, they have a third-person partially omniscient perspective. This means they learn lots of information they couldn’t possibly know, right down to certain characters' internal thoughts and feelings. As a player, you know what happened when the rogue and barbarian snuck off to the bar last night, and separating that knowledge from in-character knowledge is a big part of maintaining an immersive Tabletop experience.
In contrast, VR Roleplay offers a true first-person experience. Your perspective is limited almost entirely to what you see and hear during a session, and If you do find out about something that happened elsewhere, it's by diegetic word of mouth. You don’t know what happened when the rogue and barbarian snuck off to the bar last night, but you might have heard the rumours from someone else. This perspective grants depth to your roleplay experience, focussing your attention and time on your character. While you don’t get the full story in VR Roleplay, you always experience your full story. You piece together what's going on naturally through your own context, walk in on unexpected events, and experience natural pacing. Your story isn’t always as exciting as whatever is happening elsewhere, and you’re not always the focus of a scene, but you never take a break from experiencing your character.
There are opportunities to discover more about what happened, if you want to know, by asking other players post-session. When a session wraps up, players swap stories and discuss their experiences, often discovering ways that their decisions influenced each other even if they never interacted directly.
In Tabletop, you get the whole story for better or for worse. This perspective means always knowing what’s going on even if your character isn’t in the scene. This sometimes excludes you from participating in roleplay in favour of knowing the full story. You know nearly everything that happens in a session, but you might spend much of your time sitting back while other people do their thing.
This means you take a back seat a lot in Tabletop, or you delegate others to the back seat when you're in the spotlight. Striking a good balance of participation is one of the challenges of Tabletop that everyone is always working to overcome. When someone else is having their moment, you often stop roleplaying and start spectating. This is especially true of Tabletop combat, where maintaining focus on the session is a challenge even for the most experienced of players.
There's nothing more frustrating than the moment roleplay comes back to someone who's been in the back seat and they lost interest and need a reminder of everything that just happened. It's understandable; they were spending so long spectating that their attention waned. It's not always anyone's fault. It's a problem inherent with Tabletop that's hard to keep on top of and sometimes has to happen.
In contrast, you never stop roleplaying during a VR Roleplay session. From start to finish, you might never break character unless something happens that demands it. Even if someone else is in the spotlight, you are reacting, moving around, changing your body language, and being part of the scene. While this still means you might sometimes get bored for a bit, that usually occurs because you are experiencing the slow part of your character's life rather than waiting for someone else's scene to finish. You can stay immersed through an entire session, meaning you spend much more time roleplaying in a VR Roleplay than in Tabletop.
This is especially true if you're playing in a one-shot VR roleplay, which is paced much faster than long-form serialized RPs. One-shot VR roleplays are meant to provide a complete experience from start to finish in a single session and usually deliver nonstop quality roleplay. What that means can vary based on the nature of the RP, from intrigue to excitement to deep levels of emotionality.
If this all interests you, drop by the Aexia Community on Discord. We’re trying to help get beginners into VR Roleplay, and we play multiple one-shots every week. They range from fun space adventures to intense emotional experiences. Come check us out!